The Medal of Honor franchise is one of the biggest in the first-person shooter genre and indeed, gaming as a whole. However, EA decided a few years ago that it was time for a much needed break, and a reboot. To represent that, the latest iteration into the franchise is simply called Medal of Honor and it moves away from the World War II era, instead choosing to focus on the Modern era, specifically the conflict in Afghanistan. It was a gamble and it almost paid off.
Chosing to focus on events that are still very pertinent to world affairs has proven to be a touchy subject, but the story is a commendable effort. It still chooses to stick with the current war-game cliché of allowing players to play through the eyes of multiple operatives, each with their own skills and experiences. There is a vast difference between playing as the generic American foot soldier to tackling missions as a Tier One operative and it helps to keep things fresh throughout the campaign.
It's also positive that the story sticks to a single, realistic narrative. Far too often do games attempt to come up with some convoluted and unnecessary plot, it's not a mistake that Medal of Honor makes. Each of the missions follows on from the last, and it creates a nice flow.
Everything about Medal of Honor's gameplay is rather standard. Shoulder buttons control grenades, firing and aiming; face buttons control additional controls and melee attacks are on the right analog stick. It doesn't try to reinvent the wheel and that's not a bad thing as the controls are automatically familiar.
Where Medal of Honor starts to fall short though, is with the quality of its handling. That's not to say the game is sub-par, it's not, but it's not top drawer either. It's just average. The guns feel responsive enough, but the way enemies react upon being shot isn't that realistic. It takes away from the experience a bit, as it somehow feels more like they're being shot by invisible bullets, as opposed to actual bullets. The shots a player fire just feel like they have little weight attached to them, in some ways, they lack any real oomph.
Part of the problem here too, is that enemies can still take 3-4 bullets and still be running around as if nothing has happened. And on that subject, the AI can often be a bit silly. For the most part, they will hold their ground and take up strong defensive positions. But that's only if the player comes at them in an expected way; if you approach from a different direction they try to get to a better position and leave themselves terribly exposed while trying to get there. Plenty of shots in the back.
The game also features some vehicle sections, specifically one with an ATV where the player has full control and one in a helicopter where they don't. The ATV part is acceptable given the context of the mission, it adds to the experience. The helicopter section feels like it was only put in as an attempt to show off and bridge a gap - it wasn't that necessary - and the fact players only get to man the guns makes it a bit disappointing.
The game's presentation is pretty good, although it suffers in places. At times, the frame rate gets absolutely crippled and the attempt at destructible scenery is, at times, laughable. It's ok in the context of set pieces throughout a mission, but when it's done it real time it looks like it should be part of pre-alpha. Rubble doesn't fall off, walls just shrink. It's quite surreal to see.
The campaign can be completed in around 4-5 hours, which is a disappointment, but there is the option to try your hand at Tier One mode. This charges players with playing through all the same missions again, but with only one life and with increased difficulty. Good fun for those looking for a challenge.
What potentially saves the game though, is its multiplayer component. When another company is drafted in to make the multiplayer component, it can either be good or bad, in this instance, it's most definitely good. DICE have done a great job of sprucing up the gameplay and making a fun, and engaging multiplayer experience.
There are numerous modes to play, such as objective or simple team death match, so players won't be stuck for options. Weapon classes also upgrade through playing so there are incentives to stick around.
Despite some good intentions, Medal of Honor probably isn't the reboot to the franchise that EA expected. The campaign, while admirable for its story telling, is let down by some very average gameplay and some poor production. The multiplayer component is the saving grace though and it at least gives Medal of Honor some kind of value.